Jewish staffers for the campaign of Moscow mayoral candidate Alexei Navalny have denied reports that he praised the Holocaust.
“To my knowledge, he never made the statement attributed to him,” Maxim Katz, deputy director of the Navalny campaign for the September 8 mayoral election, told JTA Tuesday. Katz, a 29-year-old Moscovite local politician who had lived in Israel for nine years, was responding to reports that circulated earlier this month that Navalny had raised a toast to the Holocaust during a recent reception in the Russian capital.
The report appeared on the European Jewish Press news website on Monday.
Leonid Volkov, a 32-year-old Jewish venture capital specialist from Yekaterinburg and CEO of Navalny’s campaign, said the reports were “false and part of a smear campaign designed by our rivals to damage Navalny’s image precisely among reform-minded liberals who constitute a natural base of support for us.”
Navalny, a center-right blogger and corruption-whistleblower-turned-opposition-leader, is considered to be among the strongest challengers running against Mayor Sergei Sobyanin of the ruling United Russia Party, who is seen as a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The four other candidates are Communist Ivan Melnikov; Mikhail Degtyaryov of the nationalist LDPR party; Socialist candidate Nikolai Levichev; and Sergey Mitrokhin of the center-left liberal-socialist Yabloko party.
Yevgenia Albats, a writer for the New Times, wrote on Facebook Tuesday that Navalny never said the words attributed to him, adding it was “abominable and disgusting to even suggest this.”